Film Review: “The Avengers”

***OUT OF 4

Director Joss Whedon (“The Cabin in the Woods”, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”) wrote the witty script with Zak Penn for this immensely expensive ($200 million) spectacle and it works as well as you could expect from the first iteration of a new comic book franchise. The premise is to put a plethora of comic book superheroes(“Ironman”, “Captain America”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Thor”, “Black Widow”, “Hawkeye”) in one film and have them save our planet from annihilation by evil forces. The movie builds slowly at first but has spectacular CG and uses 3-D credibly if not with aesthetic breakthroughs.

The focus is on “Iron Man” played by Robert Downey.  Downey’s character, Tony Stark, is the unifying force that creates the collaboration needed to get the job done. Yes, he was better in the first “Ironman” film but he humanizes the story with his cosmopolitan flair and his playful sense of well being amidst a sea of turmoil.

The other character who nearly steals the show is the evil malevolent Norse demigod   Loki played with esprit de corps by Tom Hiddleston. He focuses like a laser beam on stealing a source of unlimited power called Tesseract. Loki has the best scene in Act 1 when he demands that a crowd of people drop to their knees and confronts a Holocaust survivor who challenges his Nazi like order.

The fun of this film is seeing all the superheroes in action performing superhuman feats.  The “Incredible Hulk”, the alter ego of anger infused nuclear scientist Bruce Banner is played by Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton. His action scenes are among the most dramatic as he follows  Stark’s order to “smash” while Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow seems befuddled as to what to do and is clearly the weakest link in the movie.

If there is a flaw to these Marvel films it is the lack of emotional resonance. Characters kill and seem not to have any sense of the impact their actions have on others.  This is a comic book world presented in as thrilling and visceral way as possible. Bring on the Hollywood Summer Movies of 2012 and don’t forget the popcorn!

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